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7 Home improvement projects that add value (and 3 that don't)

Remodeling and renovating your home can make your home more enjoyable, and— if done right—increase your home’s value along the way. But not all renovations are created equal. While some projects can add significant value to your home, others can actually reduce the sale price. So what’s a homeowner to do?

Projects That Boost Your Home’s Value


Elegant kitchen with white counter, plants, and wood cutting boards


1. Remodel the kitchen.

Updates to the kitchen pay off. Many prospective homebuyers are looking for modern, updated kitchens.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, you can expect to recoup 62.7 to 81.6 percent of your investment on a kitchen remodel. But don’t go overboard. Adding an $80,000 kitchen to a $125,000 home isn’t a smart move.

When remodeling a kitchen, start small at first. Replace the kitchen faucet, add new cabinet hardware, and replace old light fixtures with modern, energy-efficient options.

Rather than replacing cabinets, paint the cabinets a new color or hire a refacing company to refinish the cabinet boxes and install new cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware. These small updates will improve the overall look of your kitchen.


2. Upgrade the appliances.

If your appliances don’t match, consider ordering new doors and face panels from the manufacturer. This will give your kitchen a more cohesive look without the high costs of replacing the appliances.

Consider replacing older appliances with new energy-efficient models, which are better for the environment and use less energy. You many even qualify for a rebate through Seattle City Light. Potential buyers are often looking for ways to save money when shopping for a new home.


3. Boost the bathrooms.

Bathroom remodels will recoup 87.7 to 93.5 percent of your investment, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. Like the kitchen, don’t go crazy. Install new fixtures, brighten the room with paint, and re-grout the bathtub. A new mirror and light fixtures can easily transform the look of a bathroom.

Modern bathroom sink



4. Remodel the attic or basement.

Adding square footage to your home can quickly escalate and end up costing more than originally budgeted. Instead of trying to add on, renovate the existing space in your home. Imagine the attic as another bedroom or a workout area. Convert the basement into a family room. The more versatile the room, the more appeal to potential buyers who can personalize the space. 


5. Get decked out.

A high return on investment makes adding a deck worthwhile. One reason for this is decks increase the living area but cost less to build per square foot.

According to the Cost vs. Value report, in the Seattle area a wooden deck that costs around $13,084 to build will recoup an average of 106.7 percent of its value at resale. A composite deck costs around $19,227 and will recoup an average of 122 percent of its value at resale.

House with wooden deck



6. Boost curb appeal.

First impressions count. Enhancing your home’s curb appeal can be as simple as scrubbing your home’s siding or as intricate as adding a new walkway. It does not need to be expensive to be effective.

Installing a new front door is a fast, inexpensive way to instantly improve your home’s appearance. A new front door is one of the top ranking home improvements on the Cost vs. Value Report.

Prune shrubs; surround bushes and trees with mulch for a finished look. Add a touch of color with a flowerbed or pots of geraniums.

Scrub your home’s siding to remove years of dirt buildup. Retouch any worn areas.

Like most items on this list, don’t go overboard. Creating a backyard paradise is nice, but it won’t add to your asking price. A well-kept lawn and some well placed shrubbery and vegetation is all you really need to boost the "wow" factor.


7. Improve energy efficiency.

A home inspector will note if your home lacks solid insulation or has drafty doors and windows. All of this leads to higher energy use, which costs the homeowner. You can start with small updates, such as adding extra insulation to your attic. Seal cracks around doors, windows, light switches and electrical sockets to prevent energy losses.

Drafty, single pane windows may turn off potential buyers. Installing Energy Star-rated windows can help save money on heating and cooling costs. Upgrading to Energy Star-rated also qualifies you for a green energy tax credit.

Since buyers expect windows to be in good condition before they buy, replacing them might not significantly add to your asking price. But not replacing them could decrease it.


Projects that Can Negatively Affect Value

Some home improvement projects can actually negatively affect the resale value of your home. The general rule is the more customized the project is to your own personality, needs, and taste, the less likely it is to have a positive effect on the resale value. While you may love your home recording studio, a young family might not see the appeal. Having to redesign the room could turn them off from the home completely.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t do any of the projects on the list. Just don’t expect a potential homebuyer to pay extra for your $10,000 kitchen range or the marble floors in the bathroom.

Here are some projects that can have a negative resale value.


1. Swimming Pools

While an in-ground swimming pool may seem like the ultimate luxury to you, it could negatively impact your home’s value. Families with small children may consider pools to be safety hazards. Some prospective buyers aren’t interested in paying the additional energy and insurance costs associated with pools. Also consider whether it’s usable all year. If you live in southern California or Florida, a pool might be a nice selling point. But a pool in Seattle? Not so much.


2. Luxury Upgrades

While you may love your bathroom’s marble flooring, a buyer might not be interested in paying more for it. The highest quality upgrades often don’t have the same resale value as quality mid-range upgrades, unless you’re in a very high-end home. Instead, invest in quality appliances, flooring and upgrades that appeal to a wide audience.

Try to keep your upgrades on par with your neighbors. You don’t want your home to be the most expensive on the block.


3. Garage Conversions

Converting garages can add square footage to your home’s living area, but most buyers want garages. This won’t increase your home’s value.


It’s Still Your Home in the End

Start by focusing on smaller projects that make your home more appealing and energy efficient, but remember that it’s your home after all. Enjoy the house while you live there, but be aware that not all projects will pay for themselves when it comes time to sell. To see what you can expect to recoup, visit Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

Need a home improvement loan?

If you need financial support with your home improvement projects, Seattle Credit Union offers home equity loans at competitive rates and without many of the "gotcha" fees you'll find at other banks. Our mortgage lending experts will sit down with you and talk about your goals and work to find the loan that works best for you. Call us today at 206.398.5888 to get started.

Still building equity in your home?

Personal loans can have lower interest rates than credit cards and they offer the flexibility of using the funds as you see fit. We know that getting approved for a personal loan—especially one with a low-interest rate—can be challenging if your credit isn’t in great shape. When you pre-qualify for a personal loan, you can get a snapshot of what you could qualify for, which can help you make financial decisions.



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